Menominee plant says warehouse is total loss but machinery spared; governor declares state of emergency

The declaration frees up resources as the 24-hour firefight enters its 2nd week
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 10:33 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT
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MENOMINEE, Mich. (WBAY) - A spokesman for Resolute Forest Products says the warehouse and offices at the paper mill in Menominee are a total loss after last week’s fire that continues to burn.

Seth Kursman, vice president of communications and public affairs, tells Action 2 News the machinery in the mill was spared from significant damage.

There’s no timetable to operations at the plant to resume, but Kursman says they’re suspended at least through the month of October.

He added, “Resolute will continue to pay its employees despite the plant being closed.”

Michigan’s governor declared a state of emergency for Menominee County through Nov. 9 to help with the fire at the Resolute Forest Products plant.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made available all state resources to help in Menominee, including Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. Those resources will make sure the continued firefight doesn’t threaten the water supply and gives crews a much-needed break. Whitmer also activated the State Emergency Operations Center.

“I want to thank the first responders from Michigan and Wisconsin who joined forces battling this fire day and night to prevent it from spreading further and causing more damage,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Through this emergency declaration, we are dedicating every available resource to fire suppression efforts, environmental protection, and financial assistance for the local response. We will be there to assist until the emergency response is completed.”

Also, the local agencies have “incurred substantial costs” in the effort. Crews from Michigan and Wisconsin responded to the scene and It is still a continuous operation for those involved in responding to the mutual-aid call.

Wisconsin sent many crews to help give Michigan firefighters a break with their 24-hour operation. Even Greenleaf’s volunteer fire department traveled an hour and 15 minutes out of state to help with the warehouse fire.

A spokesperson for Resolute Forest Products says the fire started on Oct. 6 in a warehouse that contained pulp and waste paper.

The assistant fire chief from Marinette says the fire then swept east through two other companies’ warehouses and swept through again. The flames spread into the warehouse area of KK Integrated Logistics then hit the warehouse of Johnson Controls, burning everything in its path.

Officials say the fire is “contained” but portions of the warehouse near the plant continue to burn.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting air quality monitoring and testing as the fire threatened a massive, 8,000 gallon tank of peroxide.

The EPA was taking air samples for short-term and long-term impact data and didn’t find any chemical compounds in the air that were above health screening levels. Tests are being conducted on the Menominee River, the Menominee wastewater treatment plant, and drinking water supplies, as well.

Meals are being collected for crews who continue to work at the scene.

Departments have shared a “Meals for Firefighters” link to allow the community to provide food for the crews at the scene at Resolute Forest Products.

The Stephenson Fire Department and Menominee County Victim Services Unit are working to coordinate the meals. Stephenson posted on Facebook that most meals are covered through Wednesday but more days could be added this week. CLICK HERE for more information.

The company says machinery was spared major damage but operations are suspended at least through October